It seems that many men these days find themselves adrift and lost, confused and depressed about what true masculinity is supposed to mean. During the Second Wave feminist movement of the '80s and '90s, patriarchy and male oppression were rightly critiqued and castigated. However, in the process, the potentially sacred male virtues of passion, assertiveness and spiritual warriorhood were perhaps unintentionally denigrated at well. In response, many men tried to do the right thing by becoming "New Age Sensitive Males," but this pendulum swing was often greeted with female disdain as well. Women wanted something of the "bad boy" in a man, but without the dangerous qualities of aggression and insensitivity to the feelings of others that generally occurred as associated traits. Few men knew - or know - how to embody the best of both worlds, and many were therefore left in a dazed and confused state, especially since the Women's Movement liberated women to excel at some of the very tasks that once were the unique specialty of men. Unhealthy males reacted to this cultural transformation with an aggressive backlash, and the result has been a likely increase in rape, sexual assault, and other crimes against humanity - especially towards women and children. Most ordinary males, however, simply lost their passion and spiritual vision, turning instead to spectator sports, TV, video games and alcohol.
The Mythopoetic Men's Movement of the nineties helped address some of these issues, but it ended almost as soon as it began, at least on a mass nationwide scale. Today, I and many men who were once participants in that movement continue meeting in small groups to discuss and support each other in spiritual growth, but many of these groups - ours included - remain somewhat insular with little outreach to the community.
Meanwhile, I've found that just as I need the wilderness for developing a relationship with the Sacred Feminine, so I also require wild country to get in touch with my own Sacred Masculinity. "What does it mean to be a HOLY man?" is a question I perennially bring with me into the backcountry. I've discovered through decades of wilderness travel and solitude that the vastness of the wide-open sky and landscape helps me get in touch with a true godlike transcendence, one that embodies detachment from over-identifying myself with afflictive emotions, not as a means of remaining aloof from the concerns of self and others, but in order to better serve as the vast, stable, ever-present Backdrop of love that allows all beings to emerge, manifest their own unique beauty and thrive in an atmosphere of sacred silence and compassion. Here, the "strong, silent male" refers not to a man who is stubbornly non-communicative and out-of-touch with his feelings, but one who is always present as the stable, dignified and ever-listening ground upon which all beings are able to manifest their own most sacred selves. Here, the "holy man" becomes like a vast nighttime sky out of which the star-like gifts of others can shine, or a wide-open sunlit atmosphere in which clouds of turbulent emotion can feel free to come and go.
Another male virtue that the wilderness has instilled in me is an intense and sacred love of the beauty of Mother Earth, one that is able to penetrate through the superficial aspects of everyday living in order to find the sacredness that is always present there in hiding. Men love to compliment the beauty of women, but - as every man knows - such compliments are often unwanted unless the female recipient feels a similar attraction toward the giver of the compliment. As a solution, however, I've found that THE GODDESS present within the natural world always LOVES my compliments and begs me to employ the eye of loving insight to penetrate through life's pain and suffering in order to find the divine nature hidden there in the depths of all creatures, events and emotions. The craft of photography has definitely helped foster the development of my own sacred penetrative gaze, enabling me to find beauty in the depths of things where others may not at first be aware of it :)
Photo: Clouds, ruddy peaks and Aspen trees, Maroon Lake, Maroon Bells - Snowmass Wilderness, CO, September 27, 2015
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I am available for one-on-one spiritual direction / mentoring via phone or Skype. You can contact me at email@example.com if you are interested. The rate is $65 per hour-long session. You might also want to check out my Spiritual Direction with Stephen Hatch Facebook page.
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Stephen Hatch, M.A. is a spiritual teacher and photographer from Fort Collins, Colorado. His approach is contemplative, inter-spiritual, and Earth-based.